Stop wrangling over the NLL

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Stop wrangling over the NLL

A transcript containing confidential dialogue between leaders of the two Koreas during a 2007 summit meeting in Pyongyang about the Northern Limit Line, a maritime border in the Yellow Sea, has roiled the country. During the last presidential election, the ruling Saenuri Party claimed former President Roh Moo-hyun disavowed the sea border the United States drew up after the 1950-53 Korean War in order to persuade North Korea to create a joint fisheries zone. Government officials at the time indicated some truth in the comment. The opposition Democratic Party - the ruling party under Roh - denied it.

The transcript released by the National Intelligence Service contained Roh’s ambiguous comments on the matter. But it’s hard to conclude from them that the late president disavowed the maritime border line. He, however, had been wrong to confide in former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that he believed some changes were needed in the sea border arrangement that has been intact for more than a half-century.

During his private conversation with Kim, Roh indicated disapproval of the NLL several times. He also referred to the NLL as “a strange monster” that no one can touch. Such comments going against the general opinion of the South Korean people are hardly befitting his role as the head of state.

But the transcript does not show Roh specifically suggesting a scrapping of the NLL. Instead, he proposed that the two Koreas come to some agreement to solve conflicts around the sea border by creating a joint sea development zone for future relations and co-prosperity. Therefore, it is wrong to accuse the late president of offering to surrender the sea border line based on a few statements.

Roh’s overall view on the NLL, however, has not been right. The NLL has served as a sea border in the Yellow Sea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. South Koreans have made a living in the southern part of the sea for more than a half-century. North Koreans, however, disrespected the sea border and caused skirmishes in the area twice as well as the deadly attacks on our warship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island.

We opposed the transcript going public for reasons of national interest. But now that it has been released, we believe the political sector should stop wasteful wrangling about the details. The former president was not prudent in many ways during the summit meeting, but the accusations against him are also overblown. The NLL must be safeguarded until peace comes. We call upon politicians of both sides to wrap up this dispute.

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